Velázquez, “the painters’ painter”
Detail of “Las Meninas”
Giralda tower in Seville
A unique and timeless master. A painter chosen by Philip IV of Spain to portray his family. A specialist in depicting light and shade. We are speaking of Diego Velázquez, the 17th-century Spanish painter whose incomparable paintings can be found in art galleries all over the world. However, the greatest number of his masterpieces, including “Las Meninas” (the Maids of Honour), can only be seen in one place: Spain. Come and discover the legacy of a genius.
There are few works of art whose beauty and perfection are capable of sending a shiver down your spine. We assure you that when you stand before Velázquez’s paintings, many of them will indeed have this effect on you. The famous French painter Manet said of him: “Velázquez alone would have made my journey here worthwhile (…) He is the painters’ painter”. And so it is. But a visit to Spain to get to know this artist is not only worthwhile because there is such an impressive body of his work —which would later influence realism and impressionism—, but because it also involves a trip to beautiful cities such as Madrid and Seville whose museums own pictures by the artist. Open your eyes wide and enjoy.
Without doubt Madrid, the capital of Spain is the city par excellence for an appreciation of Velázquez. And it is here, in what is known as the “art triangle”, that we find the National Prado Museum, one of the most famous art galleries in the world, which possesses the most important collection of Velázquez’s works. We assure you that a walk through the corridors of this magnificent building is sheer pleasure. If you decide to look around, you may find yourself standing before some universally known works by the artist such as “The Maids of Honour”, “The Triumph of Bacchus”, “The Forge of Vulcan”, “The Surrender at Breda” or “The Spinners”.
Focus on the detail that most captivates you. A royal portrait, a glance, a mythological scene, some of the most skilled depictions of landscapes and views in history, a religious painting… Velázquez has much to offer, and it can all be found in the Prado Museum, and in other exceptional buildings such as the Royal Palace, the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial (50 kilometres from the centre of Madrid). In some of his paintings, such as “The Maids of Honour”, where he depicts himself as he paints, you may even feel as though you are part of the same scene, as Velázquez knew how to make the viewer feel involved. And, if you are an art lover, don’t miss a visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, very near the Prado Museum on foot, which will help you see why Madrid is one of the most important cultural destinations in the world.
All over Spain
I addition to Madrid, there are several other cities in Spain where you can learn more about the figure of Velázquez and discover his early works. And what better place to get to know a master and the origins of his thinking than the place where he was born: Seville, in Andalusia. In this area in southern Spain, Velázquez began to study painting, and here you will find the Museum of Fine Arts which owns works by the artist such as “Portrait of D. Cristóbal Suárez de Ribera”. Then, once you have seen the museum’s considerable collection, the streets of the city and its unique atmosphere will beckon you with open arms to explore its other imposing monuments including the cathedral, the Torre del Oro tower and the Giralda tower.
When you have visited these two cities, you will be nearer to understanding why Velázquez was an artist ahead of his time, who created his own style. But there are more paintings by the artist in other places in Spain, including a self-portrait in the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia, and religious paintings in the National Art Museum of Catalonia (in Barcelona), the Cathedral Treasure-Museum in Toledo and the Diocesan Museum of Religious Art in Orihuela, in Alicante. Millions of people have already marvelled at the works of this artist. Let yourself be surrounded by the characters painted by one of the key figures in the history of painting. Princesses, dwarfs and gods appear before our eyes as though by magic. Let yourself be charmed by each city, and each painting, as through them, Velázquez has touched eternity.
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